The Los Angeles Lakers have had the wildest year in recent memory. The team easily dominated the headlines with trades, brawls, coaching changes, broken records and enough off-court drama to fill a reality TV show. Any kind of entertainment you could ask for was provided by this one team this past year.
With 2012 coming to a close, now is the perfect time to reflect on some of the most memorable moments the Lakers had in the span of 365 days. Some were inspiring, others were exciting, and a few were simply cringe-worthy.
Regardless, the Lakers' intriguing year deserves a second look.
Kobe Bryant returned to his hometown of Philadelphia on February 6, 2012. With the Lakers struggling on the road, Kobe Bryant once again took it upon himself to be the scoring threat for his team. Bryant had 24 points in the first half alone. In that span, he broke one of the most significant records of his career.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Kobe's efforts were not enough as the 76ers spoiled the Mamba's big night, winning 95-90.
The Lakers traveled to Madison Square Garden in February only to lose to Jeremy Lin's Knicks during the height of "Linsanity."
The Lakers were routed, led by Lin's career-high 38 points, his fourth consecutive game with 20 or more points. Kobe Bryant shot a horrendous 11-of-29 from the field in the loss, and the Knicks held Andrew Bynum to three points.
It was not the prettiest of moments for the Lakers, but it surely is one of the moments the team will not forget.
Andrew Bynum became the first Lakers center to start in an All-Star game since Shaq did it in 2004.
For years Bynum struggled to reach his true potential. Injuries, of course, plagued him. But with an injury-free 2012, Bynum had the best season of his career.
With his career-high numbers and Yao Ming's retirement, Bynum was voted by the fans to start in the 2012 All-Star game.
The hype was probably a bit better than the end result, however. Bynum played only five minutes and didn't score. Still, the honor itself is reason enough to call this moment one of the best for the Lakers.
They say some photos speak louder than words. This one perfectly captures the tone of the Lakers' season during some of their toughest struggles.
Most frustrating was that these losses came right after the Lakers had beaten the Heat a few nights before.
What a roller-coaster ride it was for the Lakers.
The Lakers were not a very good team on the road in 2012, but somehow they managed to beat the best team in the NBA on its home floor.
It's always fun watching the Lakers take on the Spurs. That night was no different. The highlight was Andrew Bynum's outstanding night. He grabbed 30 rebounds and scored 16 points. The Lakers won, 98-84, handing the Spurs their second straight loss.
The only downside for the Lakers was that this proved to be the only victory they would earn against their arch rival.
A season after winning the J. Walter Kennedy Citizen Award, Metta World Peace befouled his image once again after elbowing James Harden in the head in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
While celebrating a highlight dunk, World Peace wailed his arms around uncontrollably and ended up knocking out Harden in the process. A scuffle soon pursued and World Peace was tossed out of the game.
Harden suffered a concussion and MWP was suspended for seven games. The Lakers won in two overtimes, but OKC would have the last laugh later in the season.
Granted, when a team inferior to yours forces a Game 7 after you just took a 3-1 lead, it's hard to brag about a lot. But that game proved to be one of the most exciting of the season for the Lakers.
Facing elimination, the Lakers were clutch when they desperately needed to be. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum both had double-doubles, but it was the effort of the reserves that propelled the Lakers to a 96-87 victory over the Nuggets. Steve Blake had 19 points and Metta World Peace 15 in the win.
Kobe Bryant sealed the victory for the Lakers with a clutch three-pointer late in the game.
Some will probably forget that the Lakers easily could have been up 3-1 over the Thunder. But late-game mishaps were what killed the Lakers in the end.
Facing elimination, the Lakers were hammered in what would turn out to be their final game of the season. The Thunder were relentless in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. OKC had control of the game from start to finish and knocked out the Lakers, 106-90.
Kobe Bryant had 42 points and shot 18-of-33 from the field in a losing effort. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were too much, however. They combined for 53 points as the Thunder eliminated the Lakers.
The Lakers dominated the headlines over the summer. With Kobe Bryant in London during the Olympics, the Lakers somehow found a way steal the spotlight in the world of basketball as they made blockbuster trade after blockbuster trade.
It started on July 4, 2012, when they acquired Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns. In a move that surprised the entire NBA, Nash had actually asked the Suns to trade him to their bitter rival, citing the need to be close to his family.
As icing on the cake, the Lakers also managed to sign veteran Antawn Jamison and sharpshooter Jodie Meeks.
Not a bad summer vacation, Lakers.
Expectations were high for the Lakers after the incredible summer they had. Unfortunately for them, they were unable to start off on the right page.
With injuries plaguing the team and with the slow implementation of the Princeton offense, the Lakers struggled to find the correct rhythm. They lost all eight preseason games and got off to a 1-4 start to the regular season.
There was never a real sense of identity with this team from the get-go. Granted, not many people expected instant success, but no one expected such a slow start.
With all of the talent at his disposal, Mike Brown failed to garner wins. Five games into the regular season, the front office had seen enough. They decided to fire him after failing to see improvement.
At the time of his firing, the Lakers couldn't run the new offense and had one of the worst records in the league.
Brown was replaced by interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff.
Fans begged and begged for Phil Jackson's return. And it almost happened. But the Lakers decided to pass on the greatest coach of all time for some reason. Instead, they went with a coach with no rings and no Finals experience.
Mike D'Antoni was hired by the Lakers in hopes of bringing showtime back to Los Angeles. It was a move that shocked many, including Jackson, who felt the job was his to turn down.
D'Antoni made his first appearance as head coach against the Brooklyn Nets. Los Angeles won that game, 95-90.
Kobe has broken record after record since joining the NBA. But one of the most significant ones came against the franchise that drafted him in the first place.
Against the Hornets, Kobe Bryant scored the 30,000th point of his career, becoming the youngest player and the fifth person to do so. The other four guys to make that list were Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan.
Nice company, Kobe.
After the firing of Mike Brown, Mike D'Antoni failed to produce better immediate results than his predecessor. With Pau Gasol and Steve Nash out for weeks, the Lakers lost six of seven games.
The toughest one came against the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers, a 100-94 defeat on the road.
Los Angeles would lose one more to D'Antoni's former team, the New York Knicks. With that loss, the Lakers fell to five games below .500 for the first time all season.
Not a bad way to celebrate Christmas.
After their struggles, the Lakers found a way to start earning victories. Having Nash and Gasol back in the lineup surely didn't hurt.
It started with unimpressive wins against Washington, Philadelphia and Charlotte. But the Lakers proved they could actually play with the big boys when they came from behind to beat a solid Golden State team.
The Lakers followed that with another come-from-behind win against New York on Christmas Day. Gasol had a game-sealing dunk while Nash posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 assists. Kobe Bryant, in the meantime, became the Lakers' all-time leader in points on Christmas Day.
After their early struggles, the win against the Knicks evened the Lakers' record at 14-14.